An Open Letter from a Rape Survivor to those Urging Forgiveness for Perpetrators

Photo by: Iguanasan

Ronn Johnson was a school leader and teacher in Milwaukee who was charged with 23 counts of felony child sex assault in 2013. One of the victims was 8-years-old when the sexual abuse started. The crimes ranged from molestation to rape. Johnson died during a fire while he was out on bail; the medical examiner determined it was a suicide.

According to studies, sixty percent of Black girls have experienced sexual assault before the age of 8. One out of six Black boys is abused before age 16. The statistics are likely skewed due to a culture of silence surrounding the sexual abuse of African-American boys.

This is an open letter from a survivor of rape to a community that urged forgiveness of perpetrators after the death of Ronn Johnson.

Trigger warning: describes sexual assault


In discussing what happened to Ronn Johnson, I hope that the people that are judging the people for “rejoicing in death” also remember that “the victims” are still dealing with what Ronn did to them. In our justice system, “People are innocent until proven guilty” and in the meantime they are only validated by the people that believe them. It is easy to preach forgiveness when you and your children are not the victims of a violent crime. It had to be extremely hard for all those children to speak out against a well-respected leader in the community. He used that to his advantage. People may not understand why a victim is “happy” that a monster is not alive to inflict pain on anyone. The “happiness” could be the relief that they will not be re-victimized in court, like most survivors are, or endure all the wonderful things and mercy bestowed on the individual. I am definitely judging Ronn. I am biased. I am on the side of the victims that I believe and I am ok with that and the judgement that will follow.

As a young woman, I was snatched off the street, driven to an alleyway, held down and raped repeatedly 13 times by three men … orally, anally, and vaginally while listening to them discuss killing me. Although, a man watched me get snatched and did absolutely nothing, two heroes later heard my screams, begging and pleading for my life and for my “brothers” to stop hurting me. The police showed up and all three ran off. Two were eventually caught. (One tried to pick up his car from the tow lot.) One never was. This was September. The case was up for trial in January.

I can’t even begin to tell you how horrific making the decision to “fight” through our justice system was for me. I had to look in their faces and repeat every detail in front of them, strangers, their family and friends that did not believe me, a small support system for myself (I did not want everyone to know I was raped). I nearly had a nervous breakdown from the experience. I did not want to live, could not be a mother to my child, and wanted to die to avoid going to court.

In court, I had to watch people laugh as I told what happened. My sexual history being questioned. Them lying (although the story changed) and saying I know them. The men’s church family coming to say how wonderful these men are and when they accepted Christ. One was even a championship ball player. I was told I was lucky. One got 15 max years and the other 45 max years because of all the acts that were done to me and because he was the one to snatch me off the street.

The next decade of my life, I spent healing. During this time, one got out of prison. I was scared. We can find anyone out here now. He could find me and be mad that I went to court. I noticed at one time that he was not on the Sexual Offenders list. I immediately called and I was told that he was dead. I was relieved. Happy. Overjoyed. I did not share this with anyone because I did not want the scriptures, judgement, etc. that well-meaning Christian folks do … that preach about forgiveness and prayer and God judging. The same God that didn’t stop it from happening. I decided to go to a therapist, for the first time in my life, and I told her he was dead. Her gift to me was her answer: “Good.”

That is the gift that I want to give to these confused victims of molestation that might be THANKFUL that Ronn is dead. I am sorry that he is someone’s son … but those babies that he molested were someone’s sons. I am not speaking for all victims but we have to be really careful how sanctimonious we are when dealing with people that have been victimized. Even if the courts did not get a chance to JUDGE, it did not change what happened to those babies.

If the jury would not have found those men guilty, they still raped me 13 times in an alley like monsters. You can call me angry, bitter unforgiving, judging, or whatever … but I am not unhappy that Ronn is gone and I am happy that the babies do not have to endure the same court systems that we have lost faith in over and over again.

I just did a check on the registry and found out that the second one is in a Supervised Living Facility now in Milwaukee. (I admit I am a little scared and a lot of shocked.) I found out he is up for parole in a couple of months and I really do not know what to do. Maybe it was meant for me to vent to find this info out. I do not know. I don’t think I can fight this anymore. To be honest, I wish that he faced the same demise as the other one.